Magazine article Humanities

A Fish Story

Magazine article Humanities

A Fish Story

Article excerpt

CALIFORNIA AROUND 1991, FISHBONE WAS POISED TO ASCEND the greatest heights of American popular music. Few bands so daring came this dose. Fishbone wasn't punk, funk, reggae, or heavy metal, and yet it was-frenetically, amazingly-all these things at once. According to fans like Gwen Stefani of No Doubt and Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction, seeing a live Fishbone concert in its early years was an immersion into a sweaty, tightly wound chaos, with mikes flying, horns blaring, mohawks shaking, and a lead singer doing flips into an eclectic audience coming from all corners of L.A. It was electrifying.

It was also surprising. Fishbone was an all-black band, brazenly kicking its way into the rowdy mosh pit of Caucasian college music. "Fishbone helped desegregate the Southern California music scene," says Chris Metzler. Metzler, along with codirector Lev Anderson, document the personal stories of the members of this groundbreaking band, as well as the cultural progression of L.A. during the last thirty years, in their new film, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, supported by the California Council for the Humanities.

The saga began back in 1979, when Norwood Fisher (the band's bassist and founder), his brother, and others, were bussed from South Central to a school in the San Fernando Valley as part of the city's attempt at desegregation. The only other black student at the school-a smiling, Jehovah Witness-raised oddball named Angelo Moore-sought out their company and begged to join the band, which practiced in what the boys called "the aquarium," a bedroom at Mama Fish's apartment in the hood. There, the boys rejected the burgeoning gangster lifestyle surrounding them and created something of their own. Blending the local black funk sound with the white punk music that they were digging in the valley, Fishbone won a battle of the bands and a recording contract with Columbia, while the six musicians-Angelo, the Fisher brothers, Walter Kibby, Kendall Jones, and Christopher Dowd-were still in their teens.

The band became renowned for its relentless stage show and for its defiance of stereotypes. "I've seen them do every style - in the same song," recalls Mike Watt from the early punk band Minutemen. "They are the OG-the original," says a friend from the old neighborhood who took a different path, rapper Ice-T. "There was no pre-Fishbone."

Anderson says, "There's a lot of love for Fishbone in the music industry, because Fishbone's music and influence is so widespread and respected. …

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